Matthew Gioia

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Matthew began seeking alternative educational environments halfway through his college experience. He participated in Naropa University's "contemplative education program" in Boulder, CO,  and studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, which offers a Great Books curriculum.  From there, he moved to Mississippi to teach in a rural middle school and attend the Ole Miss on weekends.  Matthew came to HVSS by way of a search for a place where he is permitted to respect children and teenagers as fully human beings.  At school these days, Matthew loves to play sports, run the Judicial Committee, teach history and writing, and try making jokes.

Articles by the Author

The Education of a Sudbury Staff Member

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One of the best things about a Sudbury School is Age Mixing.  This allows people of all ages to learn from other people of all ages - whether the person doing the learning is 5 years old or 30 years old.  Here is another episode in the continuing saga of one of our staff members "getting schooled".  One would thank that participating in a Milkshake sale would be simple, well one would be wrong...

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Why So Many Song About Rainbow

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Perhaps it’s because rainbows operate in our psychology as a symbol of plenitude, especially for children, most of whom spend a great deal of their time under strict surveillance in secure pens called “schools,” which is ominously defined in Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “an institution for the teaching of children.”  Rainbow-land is where we will finally be free to do as we please and be respected as complete human beings.  But more on rainbows later.

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Can't Wait Until Music Night

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"This is the kind of gig I had in mind when I moved to the Hudson Valley." That's what Jason from the King of Rome said when he took the stage at the January 2014 Music Night, and everyone who has ever been knows what he meant: Music Night is suffused with the kind of intimate ambiance lent by the glow of warm embers in a friend's fireplace

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It's Up to You

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"Claiming responsibility for your own life, for your own community, for your world is glorious.  “I am responsible!” That’s heart; that’s love. Something extraordinary is happening today, and we need responsible people."

 
Find out what else Matthew said at the 2014 graduation ceremony!

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Commencement Speech 2015

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I am really honored and flattered to be asked to speak again this year.  It’s always a pleasure for me to fabricate heady rhetoric. So, thanks guys.  But actually, you know, after they asked me to speak, I went to them - maybe it was just Kiran, and I asked him who he would really like to speak, and he said Steve Buscemi, of course.  I found Mr. Buscemi on americanspeakers.com and there was a form to request him as a speaker - the lowest fee you could offer was $5,000, so I offered that and added a note that really I was really only offering $250.  We didn’t get a response.  So you’re stuck with me.  

So, when I was working on this yesterday at school one of our youngest students approached me and asked if he could help, and I accepted the offer, and I’m going to begin with his contribution:

"Here ye, here ye, I am a pirate.  You will be missed.  Maybe see you on a visiting week."

Alright.  Here we are: you’re about to graduate.  Though, it’s a little weird to even call it “graduation” here, isn’t it?  Because - as we all know - at this school the curriculum is responsibility and the method is freedom, and so the content of what a student actually does here - what they “work on” - is different for each one; and ultimately, the curriculum is just their own person, their own genius.  

So - what does it mean to graduate here?  The transcripts we give you say that really only you can tell us.  When I was thinking about this I was reminded of a passage from the prologue to East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which I read over and over again in high school.  (I have done some slight editing to bring Mr. Steinbeck up to date politically.)  Goes like this:  A [person], after [they] have brushed off the dust and chips of [their] life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

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Happy, Healthy, Strong

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HVSS does not have an official mission statement; the closest we get is the text of our graduation process, which states that, in order to earn a Certificate of Graduation, a student must prove to a committee that s/he has gained the problem solving skills, adaptability, and abilities necessary to succeed in whatever they are going onto next. This is an imminently sensible goal, honoring as it does the natural richness of humanity by acknowledging that different people will want to live different kinds of lives, and they’ll have to do different things to prepare for it.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury Basketball School

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This past Tuesday at 9:00 it was 18 degrees here on campus, not factoring in wind-chill…. It was windy. Most of us were right where you’d expect us to be, huddled up inside the building, working and playing. Our new basketball team, however, was training…. Outside.

In fact, they were lined up in the push-up position, balancing on one hand while dribbling a ball with the other. I watched them from the office, shaking my head in admiration and disbelief, as I have so many times this year.

The coach - Noa, a student - was walking slowly back and forth in front of them, his lips soundlessly chanting incantations to the basketball gods. I went outside to get a little closer to the action - the team’s energy drew me out there, as it has so many times this year. When I reached the court, though, they looked so dialed in that I pretended I was just walking by on my way to the mailbox.

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Gaming, Parkour, and the Art of Moving Like Water

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Students playing computer gamesTake a peek into our “Lounge Extension Room One,” any hour of any day, and you’ll likely see a half-dozen or so 9-12-year-old students doing...something, intently on their laptops, often with eyebrows raised, mouths open slightly, and heads thrust forward, belying one-pointed concentration, unflagging determination, and ecstatic flow. So- what the hell are they doing exactly? What’s so darn engaging, and what’s it all about? Where’s the utility? Sometimes they appear to be collaborating, working together to defeat common enemies, and sometimes competing (fiercely) against each other. Other times they’re independently facing challenges, sticking it out as long as it takes to see them through, and still other times they aren’t competing at all, but are, rather, creating rooms, buildings, cities, and whole worlds. Their screens fill the room with bright colors, frenetic music, and a wickedly fast pace of activity, and to the uninitiated adult, the scene can be a little nauseating (this space is also noted for its stagnant air and organic-material messes; these students are indifferent to their immediate environment, as most people are when they’re buckling down to solve urgent problems). Sometimes one of them will bound into the office, spitting out a string of jargon that sounds to me like, “YAPBOPADOOBOPBIPBOPPA BAM!” and I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, or even what they said, but the excitement is palpable, I can tell they’ve scored an epic win, and I’m happy for them. This is one of the most skilled, passionate, and engaged group at our school: the gamers.

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Playground Build 2016

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Students building new playground areas.I have to admit that I was nervous last Friday morning.  We had really paired down our plans for build day because most of our project leaders were unable to come on the actual date, and only a few people had signed up to participate.  Then, during the week, lots of people volunteered to come, which was great, but I worried we didn’t have anything for them to do.  I imagined little groups of bored and despondent, formerly hopeful people milling around in hats and work gloves, wondering why I was so unprepared utilize their talents.  I imagined them packed into the kitchen while it poured outside, huddling over styrofoam cups of instant coffee, staring grimly at the muddied floor, kindly offering their seats to each other, maybe even taking turns weeping bitterly in the far corner.  I imagined patiently trying to explain to each person the predicament, why it turned out like this, but being received, like a foreign diplomat trying in vain to maintain favor after breaking a promise, with icy silence, stiff nods, and untrusting-yet-firm eye contact. 

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Welcome Back to the Real World

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Hark, the school year beginneth! The long, languid, dreamy days draw to a drier, crisper end. Time to get back to reality. How utterly gratifying to return to a school designed to support young people’s humanness. How invigorating to be able to focus on such a vital task, rather than on, say, sprawling tomes of byzantine standards. Hallelujah. Summer fades, yet my mood endureth.

You know, our school is often misunderstood (big surprise, I know). It’s true that we’re different, indeed we are the alternative to everything else. But sometimes we are accused of living in a kind of Rousseaun fantasy - summer forever. Time frittered away in reverie while the rest of everyone is busy learning how to dominate the real world. I mean the markets. Or whatever. Ideas like this might even pop into the heads of Sudbury parents from time to time, or staff, or even students. But this unimaginative thought ignores the complexity, the history, and the evolution, of our human reality. In fact, HVSS is the most real place I know.

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Hudson Valley Sudbury School

84 Zena Road
Kingston, NY 12401
 
Phone: 845-679-1002
Fax: 845-679-3874